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Waking Up To Empire: Alfred Zimmern and Donald Kagan on Athens, Britain, and America

Thursday Lecture Series, Hide and Seek

dateFebruary 23, 2012 timeThursday, 12:15pm EST location The Heyman Center, Columbia University

Professor Morefield’s presentation examined the classical scholarship of two pro-imperial, public intellectuals writing at opposite ends of the twentieth century, Alfred Zimmern and Donald Kagan. The analysis paid close attention to the way each author transformed the fifth-century Athenian Empire into a model for British and American imperial development. Professor Morefield did this by focusing on each man’s counterintuitive reading of Thucydides’ History and the forms of proleptic nostalgia at work in their respective writings. She concluded that Zimmern’s and Kagan’s transformation of Athenian imperial history into a narrative of liberal sleeping served to justify imperial intervention while excusing imperial violence.